This Memorial Day


2013-05-23 16:49:01
<mikulski.senate.gov/systemimages/mikulski-header1.jpg> MAY 2013 In This Issue Memorial Day Useful Links Connect to VA

 


MAY 2013

In This Issue
Memorial Day
Useful Links
Connect to VA




"Each and every day, we are thankful for the service and sacrifice of all our veterans and their families."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski



 
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Honoring Our Veterans Not Only With Words, But With Deeds 

Fighting for the Care and Benefits Veterans Earned and Deserve by Ending the VA Disability Claims Backlog

As Americans across our nation come together this Memorial Day to recognize the courage, commitment and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, we must honor them not only with words, but with deeds.

After more than ten years of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our veterans are coming home. Their courage along with that of their families has been quietly heroic. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice and laid their lives on the battlefield to protect and defend the United States of America. Wounded warriors returning from the front lines often suffer from complex physical and emotional injuries.

We must ensure that promises made are promises kept. Our veterans who have fought on the front lines shouldn’t have to stand in line for the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. That’s why I’ve been laser-focused on ending the Veterans Administration disability claims backlog, which has resulted in unacceptably long wait times, lost paper work and high rates of error.

The backlog is well known and well documented. Nationwide, there are 839,000 pending claims in the VA, and 559,000 of these are more than 125 days old. The average wait time to have a claim completed is 273 days, more than nine months. The problems are even worse at the Baltimore Regional Office. The average wait time is 332 days, or 11 months. More than 16,000 claims, or 84 percent, are older than 125 days. The Baltimore Office has the highest error rate of any regional office, with an error rate of 26.2 percent compared to 13.7 percent nationally.

In February, I asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to visit the Baltimore Regional Office with me and lay out a concrete action plan to address the backlog. While there, we met with employees and heard first-hand their experiences and concerns with claims intake and processing.

Following our meeting, Secretary Shinseki committed to steps to end the backlog in Baltimore, as part of the goal of eliminating the backlog nationwide in 2015. The VA has sent in additional claims processors within the last several months to assist in processing claims. In addition, all permanent claims processors and supervisors are undergoing comprehensive training to improve service and reduce errors and wait times. The VA has announced that it will make a provisional rating based on all current evidence associated with claims at the Baltimore Regional Office that have been waiting for a year or longer and will begin disbursing benefits immediately following the provisional decision.

Six years since the Dole-Shalala Commission called for a seamless transition for our veterans, they continue to be mired in bureaucratic red tape. The VA must be as fit for duty as the veterans it serves. The dedicated employees of the VA have been trying their best to keep up with increasing caseloads and more complex claims. But our wounded warriors can’t wait years for improvement, they need action now.

As Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, this week I convened a historic roundtable discussion with Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as well as senior Administration officials from the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service.

The solution to this problem has to go right to the top. I insisted that Administration leaders have a sense of urgency, a fire in the belly and that they get the job done. And I’m proud to announce that after a robust conversation with vigorous bipartisan participation, real solutions are on the way.

Each agency will identify a single high-level person whose sole focus is fixing the backlog, and will report directly to the Secretary or Administrator of these agencies. In addition, Secretaries Hagel and Shinseki agreed to meet every 60 days to discuss progress on ending the backlog. These agencies will also be accountable to Congress through a coordinated progress report to the Appropriations Committee every 60 days.

This year, we’ll commemorate Memorial Day by putting the right money in place and insisting that the right management is in place. To demonstrate our commitment to our veterans, I’m also announcing that the first of our annual spending bills to be marked up by the full Appropriations Committee and moved to the full Senate for a vote will be the Military Construction / Veterans Affairs bill. This crucial legislation will put funds in the federal checkbook to help tackle the backlog problem once and for all with the fierce urgency of now.

As a member of the Senate Military Family Caucus and the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus, I will never stop fighting for the men and women in uniform who have honored our country by volunteering to serve. I will continue to honor our soldiers and veterans, not only with words, but with deeds. 

To our outstanding men and women in uniform and our military families I say, you have performed brilliantly and sacrificed greatly. Thank you for serving our country. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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Useful Links

Senator Mikulski In Action

Senator"Mikulski Announces Agreement Among DoD, VA, IRS, SSA to Work Together to End Gridlock of VA Claims Backlog
Senator"Mikulski Announces Agreement to End Gridlock of VA Claims Backlog (Photos)
Senator"Mikulski Announce Bicameral Legislation to Combat Sexual Assault in Armed Forces
Senator"Mikulski Fights to Ensure Navy Veteran Awarded Honor and Recognition Earned and Deserved for Service During World War II
Senator"Mikulski's Call for Action Leads to New VA Plan to Expedite Claims Backlog and Benefits Disbursement at Baltimore VA Regional Office and Across Nation
Senator"Mikulski Demands Additional Action on Resolving Claims Backlog at Department of Veterans Affairs

Senator"Mikulski Co-Sponsors Bill Extending Tax Credits for Employers Who Hire Vets

Resources for Service Members, Veterans and Military Families

Senator"Mikulski's Resources for Active-duty Service Members, Veterans and Military Families
Senator" Mikulski's Military Base Resources
Maryland"Department of Veterans Affairs
US"Department of Veterans Affairs
PTSD"Coach Mobil App


      
Contact the VA

Benefits: 1-800-827-1000
Education and Training: 1-888-442-4551
Health Care: 1-877-222-8387
Special Issues: 1-800-749-8387
VA Inspector General: 1-800-488-8244
TDD: 1-800-829-4833


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